Some DAM vendors argue that the data explosion is their reason for being. Back in the olden days, things were simpler, one might think. Take a piece of paper and file it in a folder. Take a sound or video record and store it on a shelf. Multiply that by a million and then misplace just one. The ensuing disaster is immediately obvious. The file or the recording is forever lost, impossible to retrieve or to recreate unless one were willing to face the cost. Then came the wonderful promises of the paperless office, and everything was stored on single buckets of mainframes and later on local PCs. Backup and data retrieval became paramount. In case of disaster, you would not lose one or a few files but lots, if not all. Obviously, storing files in an organized way and keeping them safe was important. The obvious side benefit was that files could be found again even if they had been misplaced or disorganized, which, in turn, created a new problem: chaos.
Safeguard Media Assets (like the photo seen here)
Then came along images and later videos which sparked the birth of the Digital/Media Asset Management industry. Back then, the cost for bandwidth was prohibitive and organizations were looking for ways to share their media files with affiliates and providers more quickly and easily. The main argument at that time was that it would be far cheaper to share files through a web based digital asset management system than sending CDs around the world. Another main controversy was that (a set of) files could be retrieved if only the system was well organized. This birth of the industry fell together with the wholesale replacement of corporate digital/media archives that relied on paper, film, and tape. An obvious solution to the old problem of accidental misplacement and the new one of digital chaos was offered. FTP servers provided no alternative to the need at hand since they were good for technicians but entirely unsuitable for the everyday user. IT departments were slow to respond to the growing needs of sharing files in branding and communications departments. They were simply not recognized as critical business processes and IT staff were treating them as a last priority.
The Evolution of Media Asset Management
The very absence of IT guys blew life into DAM/MAM vendors as the technology champions for brand and communication departments. Their needs continue to be viewed as not mission critical. It answers thus one of the fundamental questions in digital asset management: unless you are a technology provider or your business derives its income from media, you cannot justify the investments and running cost of a DAM/MAM that runs on internal machines. Other processes will take precedence exactly when you need IT assistance most. Besides, your machines will grow old faster than you think, putting you into a loop of continuous investments.
ONISON found out quickly that users were undisciplined with metadata despite the best efforts to add extensive information to every file. But DAM/MAM users showed up to be very different from ordinary desktop wrecks. Firstly, they diligently assigned meaningful folders to every single one of their files that they uploaded. Secondly, they were extremely careful who they shared information with. This basic truce with the DAM/MAM system’s usage pattern did not change with size. However, while the ordinary desktop user happily saved new files on top of the old chaos, the DAM/MAM user remained reluctant to do so, mainly hampered by cumbersome upload methods. Furthermore, the DAM/MAM user evaded the systems that were supposed to make life easier because the download methods were just as much a barrier to working efficiently as they promised to lend a helping hand.
Today, organizations large or small need to be able to securely store, manage, and share all sorts of files efficiently without incurring the investments that would otherwise be necessary to satisfactorily deliver the task at hand. While users obviously want to find their files fast, most DAM/MAM vendors generously overlook that the surrounding processes of uploading, managing, and downloading need to be efficient as well. On the other hand, a successful DAM/MAM is like a catch 22: the more files are in the system, the more valuable it will become. Thus, files from all sorts of sources need nowadays to be centralized in one place.